Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Disaster relief as a right

So in watching the news from Haiti, I keep coming back to one thing: there are lists of who has given aid, and the lists are long and generous. It's nice to see. All the private efforts have been wonderful. Governments have also done much. Etc. etc. etc.

But I can't help imagining myself as a Haitian, watching news reports of governments patting each other on the back about the size of their donations. Wondering whether or not the nations of the world will come to their aid. Worried that it will make the world feel that Haiti 'owes them something'.

I'm saying nothing about private aid, but when it comes to the international community of nations, I'm starting to think disaster relief needs to be seen as a right, not a privilege or an act of charity. Charity it certainly is, but it's something that the people of Haiti need and something that the people of Haiti shouldn't have to wonder about. Organisations should be established that immediately dole out government aid when disasters strike. From each country according to its ability, to each country according to its need. No 'tied aid', no changes in aid associated with changes in government or bad economic times. No preferential treatment for neighbours or 'friendly countries'. Many countries already have organisations like this internally; the UN needs one.

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